Japandroids: Is there a more aptly titled album in 2012 than this Canadian duo's "Celebration Rock"? It's full of fuzzed-out guitars, fist-pumping energy and sharp lyrics that demand to be screamed across a tiny club (or an even tinier car). Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse hit a few classic sound-of-youth musical touchstones such as Husker Dü and the Replacements but still come out with something that makes you feel recklessly alive today.
Edward Norton in "Moonrise Kingdom": Wes Anderson's skewed view feels even more sweetly strange than usual in his latest film from an uncertain universe where Scout camps resemble military installations. But what holds it all together is a sharp cast of all-in performances, including the one from Norton as the harried and fastidious Scout Master Ward. Who knew Norton, once known for an intensity that could drift over the top, had comic chops too?
Andy Samberg's post-"SNL" future: Samberg showed a gift for absurd laughs in his "Saturday Night Live" digital shorts, but he's not off to a promising start in switching to the big screen. His underwhelming "Hot Rod" from 2007 looks brilliant compared with the dreadful-looking Adam Sandler vehicle "That's My Boy," and next year doesn't look much brighter with a planned role in a "Grown Ups" sequel nobody wanted. Keep working on those songs, Andy.
Actors who sing: If there's any potential fallout from the musical costume drama curiosity that is "Rock of Ages" (and really, haven't we seen enough of Tom Cruise's abs at this point?), it's the possibility that it could inspire more stars to grab a microphone. We've weathered amiable recordings from Scarlett Johansson and Jeff Bridges recently, but for every would-be Zooey Deschanel who finds a voice there are a thousand Steven Seagals who shouldn't.